Thoughts and observations about the early days of the season

The Yankees need inconsistent pitcher A.J. Burnett to be consistent, and so far, thanks to an improved changeup, Burnett has won his first two starts. Also, catcher Russell Martin has made a good impression. No need to worry about the slow starts of Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee, or his Nationals counterpart, Adam LaRoche. Each is making good contact. Lee, hitting. 182 after being out a good chunk of March, is in late-spring training mode. LaRoche, who hit a game-winning home run Thursday, is at .167. For his career, he's hitting .201 in April and .257 in May. The good news for the Phillies: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has shaken off a bad spring and is hitting well, a key to their offense. But, the bad news is that closer Brad Lidge (shoulder) could be out until the All-Star break, leaving Jose Contreras as his replacement. Orioles pitchers Zack Britton and Brian Matusz are helping each other. Britton says Matusz has helped him with his changeup grip and Matusz says Britton has given him tips on his two-seam fastball. The Red Sox have only one win entering Saturday's game against the Yankees. Newcomer Carl Crawford is starting slow because he's trying to make a good first impression, but the biggest question remains: Will Josh Beckett's fastball velocity improve? Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is giving Ian Desmond more time to prove himself in the leadoff spot, and that's a good thing not to have him switching with Danny Espinoza. Wonder if Riggleman will think about moving Jayson Werth from No. 2 to the middle of the order? The Tigers are honoring former manager Sparky Anderson, who died in the offseason, on opening day in Detroit. Anderson lived in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and had one piece of baseball memorabilia in his house: A baseball signed by Pope John Paul in Latin. He also had two Tiger Stadium seats outside, painted brown to match his fence. The rest of his memorabilia was in boxes in the attic. The Twins, who thought they were going to be healthy this season with the return of Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau, will be without second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who is out with a broken leg. Niskioka, injured in New York after a slide by Nick Swisher, was a batting champ and Gold Glove winner in Japan. Nishioka had an Ichiro-like flair in his stance. The Rays aren't hitting and didn't have a win going into the weekend. Manny Ramirez was taken out of the lineup for a day because he was trying to do too much. If the Rays fall out of the race quickly, wonder how long it will be before Manny gets bored and shows attitude? Geek conversation of the week: Phil Wood, my broadcast partner, and I were talking about the uniform numbers we would wear if we were good enough to play: He said 45 because April 5 is his wedding anniversary. I said 32 (no particular reason) but 26 would also be good, because, as a kid, it was the number of my dog Rookie's license tag. Told you it was a geeky conversation.
When the ninth inning comes, Gregg wants the ball
Roberts and Showalter speak

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